GeDespite a push on inclusive recruitment over the last decade, women are still struggling to progress into senior leadership positions in the financial service sector. Either never reaching the pinnacle of the corporate ladder or doing so at a far slower pace than their male counterparts. Upskilling is imperative to addressing gender disparity in the workplace, allowing women to advance their careers and stay relevant despite the added pressures they face in terms of work-life balance.
In the second section of this Women’s Mentorship Series in partnership with HerCapital, Rutherford delves into the benefits of upskilling both personally and professionally. The financial services industry is a rapidly changing environment; therefore, it is crucial women are not only given the basic skills for success but offered resources that enable them to continually adapt and expand their skill base. In turn, empowering women to collectively move up the corporate ladder. All advice and tips mentioned below stem from a virtual roundtable held on the 17th March 2021 with Joy Rhoades, a successful author and ex-Managing Director at renowned financial services firm JPMorgan.
Why Are Mentorships Beneficial?
Mentorships for women in the financial services industry have proven to be extremely beneficial for advancing careers. According to Forbes, employees who received mentoring were promoted five times more often than people who didn’t.
Both mentors and mentees are likely to reap the rewards from a mentor programme, whether it be tangible gains such as a raise, promotion or recognition, many women in leadership find they feel great internal gratification from being able to help a co-worker upskill, greater support within their workplace from further building out their network and a better understanding of how they are perceived at work.
Challenges Faced by Women in The Financial Services Sector
Within financial services, women in leadership positions are still underrepresented, mainly due to the lack of flexibility and gender pay disparity within their roles.
Flexible Working Conditions
Women tend to need more flexible working arrangements in place than their men co-workers due to factors such as pregnancy, family responsibilities and/or childcare needs. These requirements have been known to change the perception of women in the workplace, leaving them in positions of lower seniority, receiving fewer promotions and pay rises and fewer career development opportunities.
Gender Pay Disparity in the Workplace
According to a PWC report, the financial services industry has one of the most significant gender pay gaps in the UK. Figures vary per sector, however within the UK banking space women are paid 33% less than men, this pay discrepancy also leaks into bonuses as research suggests within the financial services entities surveyed, men received 44% more in bonuses.
Basic Skills for Success
The technology boom and its consequent saturation of the workplace has led to an increasing demand for employees that are technically talented and highly trained. That said, the employer’s desire for soft skills often outweighs a need for technological expertise.
In brief, soft skills relate to how you work and are often difficult to qualify. Typically, they refer to an individual’s interpersonal skills – listening, communication and empathy – but can include practical abilities such as time management and organisation. Soft skills are subtle and nuanced, but any savvy hiring manager or employer will be on the lookout for these fundamental faculties, which are not only crucial to fostering a successful working culture but critical to personal career progression.
According to Joy Rhoades, a successful author, and ex-Managing Director for the prominent financial services firm JPMorgan, being adept at the basics is vital to move up the corporate hierarchy. Rhoades lists four basic skills needed for success in any industry, but particularly useful in the financial service sector: project management, negotiation, writing and confidence. These are skills we mistakenly assume to come naturally, therefore spend little time cultivating. However, training and adapting these four key skills can prove essential in terms of career progression.
The ability to organise your time and deliver multiple projects simultaneously and successfully is no mean feat. Project management is a core skill in any industry, allowing you to navigate various tasks effectively with a focus on profitability. Possessing an aptitude for project management means you can streamline procedures, increase efficiency and productivity, and find cost effective solutions. If you can demonstrate versatility and decisiveness while managing several tasks, with appropriate contingency strategies, you should move up through the ranks swiftly.
In some respect, negotiating is innate. As Rhoades states, ‘everything you do, every interaction you have everyday in some way is a negotiation’. However, negotiation and persuasion are skills that need to be honed to perfection if you want to move up the corporate ladder. Whether you are closing a deal, pulling resources, or handling expectations, a talent for negotiation enables you to reach a conclusion that satisfies all parties. Failing to know when to compromise can harm working relationships and damage profits. Good negotiation skills often engender respect in the workplace, in turn leading to career progression into leadership roles.
Despite a considerable amount of communication taking place via phone or video call in the workplace, being able to write proficiently is a core skill in any industry. The ability to convey complex ideas non-verbally is a desirable attribute, allowing you to express yourself with authority and clarity. Unsatisfactory communication skills will lead colleagues to doubt your abilities and unwilling to commit time or energy to an idea you are proposing.
Having belief in yourself and your abilities may sound cliché, but it is fundamental to career progression. For women, demonstrating confidence in the workplace can be problematic; often being stereotyped as aggressive or ‘bossy’ when they show belief in their opinions or methods. Consequently, women are forced to navigate a fine line between being assertive and docile to be acknowledged or listened to in the workplace. Rhoades suggests the key is to ‘challenge without being adversarial’; make astute suggestions without being overly pushy. Cultivating confidence is fundamental to pursuing career progression, enabling you to get your voice heard and be seen in your working environment.
If you feel you are lacking in any one of these areas, Rhoades recommends taking a skill gap analysis online. There are many sites that allow you to explore personal areas you may need to improve, to find success in the workplace.
Want more information and tips on moving up the corporate ladder - and getting the right compensation along the way? Then make sure to look at our other resources on the topic:
The Rutherford x HerCapital Mentorship Initiative
In March 2021, Rutherford officially launched in partnership with HerCapital an initiative to create safe spaces where women in senior roles within financial services could coach and mentor ambitious women in mid-level functions who are looking to move up the corporate ladder and invest in their career. Find out more about the initiative here.
HerCapital was founded in 2019 with the mission to empower women to become financially independent and to take control of their income. The two founders, Zabreen Khan and Rabiya Ather, aim to create a strong community of women who are looking to become confident investors and to be equipped with tools who will help them be part of the conversation when it comes to investing and managing personal finances.
This initiative with Rutherford is enabling the non-profit organisation to expand its current horizons, by providing safe spaces for their community to discuss career goals and progression with well-established women in senior positions. This will help empower women to also take control of their career and future.